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Know the Laws:

UPDATED June 19, 2017

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Making or attempting to make a person financially dependent, e.g., maintaining total control over financial resources and withholding access to money, are some forms of financial abuse (also called economic abuse). Below is information on how to handle the aftermath of this type of abuse, including dealing with credit card debt and identity theft.

Credit cards

back to topHow can I get my credit report?

There are various companies that allow you to request a free credit report.  At www.AnnualCreditReport.com, for example, you can request a free credit report every 12 months by going to their website or by calling toll free at 1-877-322-8228.  Don’t be fooled by websites or companies using similar names since many of them are not reputable.  (Note: WomensLaw.org does not endorse this website and cannot vouch for their services; we provide this for your information only.) 

Your credit report can show what accounts you have open and what the balances are on each.  Check to make sure your credit report accurately reflects your financial history.  If there is incorrect information or accounts that you don’t recognize, please read here about what you can do if an abuser opened an account in your name without your permission.

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back to topWhat is a fraud alert and should I get one?

A fraud alert lets the credit card bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) know that you may be a victim of identity theft.  A fraud alert can make it very hard for anyone to open new accounts in your name, and it can be a good idea if you are fearful of someone using your information without your knowledge.*  A fraud alert will remove your name from all preapproved credit cards and it will require the credit card bureaus to call you by phone before any new account can be opened.  Once you have successfully placed a fraud alert through one of the credit bureaus, they will let the other two credit bureaus know.  Below is contact information for the three bureaus:

AnnualCreditReport.com has more information on how to put a fraud alert on your account. (Note: WomensLaw.org does not endorse their website and we cannot verify or vouch for the information on it; we offer it for your information only.)

* AnnualCreditReport.com
** Fight Identity Theft

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back to topHow do I dispute inaccurate information on my credit report?

To dispute inaccurate information, such as a loan or a credit card that you did not open or one that you closed but that still shows up as being open, you can report it to one of the credit bureaus that shows the error and they will contact the company who initiated the account.  For example, if your account reflects an open Sears credit card that you don't think you are responsible for opening or that you closed, then the credit bureau will need proof from Sears that you opened the account.*  This process can take 30-90 days, so it’s a good idea to “clean-up” your credit report several months prior to a major purchase to ensure you will be given the best interest rates and terms available.

Below are links for the investigation departments of each credit bureau:

* Information compiled from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion websites

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back to topHow do I dispute charges to my credit card that I did not authorize?

You can contact your credit card company directly and let them know about specific charges that you did not authorize.  Some credit card agreements state that you are not responsible for any charges that you did not authorize and they will remove those charges from your account.  Generally, however, before they will do this, you will need to speak to someone in their security department who looks into cases of fraud.  You may also need to file a police report first about the charges – ask the credit card company.

Be cautious of companies or other offers that claim to “clean-up” or improve credit reports, particularly if they charge a fee for their services. Consider contacting a local, not-for-profit consumer credit organization if you want help through this process. For a listing of organizations in your area, you can contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Note: WomensLaw.org does not endorse this website and cannot vouch for their services; we provide this for your information only.

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